2016 James E. Smith Midwest Conference on World Affairs

Migration, Borders, and Identity: Building Bridges or Walls

Monday and Tuesday, September 26-27, 2016

WAC Poster

Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room

Many issues that shape the nature and quality of our lives have an international dimension. Today’s economic interdependence, the development of appropriate environmental strategies, the resolution of regional conflicts, social inclusion, and the enhancement of human rights all require a global perspective. Important aspects of the educational experience include discussion and interaction with people from diverse cultures. Since 1964, Kearney State College, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney, has sponsored an international conference to discuss issues of global importance. In 1988 the name of the conference was changed to honor Professor James E. Smith.

The daily news formed the basis of our conference theme: Migration, Borders, and Identity: Building Bridges or Walls. Every day we read horrific stories of refugees fleeing violence at home, only to find themselves facing walls hastily erected to prevent them from reaching safety. We see the families of hard-working Latino migrants separated and criminalized. We hear about Britain’s exit from the European Union and how the boundaries and borders that only two decades ago seemed destined for permanent erasure are now being redrawn with anger and bitterness. We watch with disbelief as young men and women—whose parents raised them with the values of love, tolerance, and peace—turn against these values, to form a new identity based on extremism and an ideology of hatred. Yet these divisive and frightening images tell only one part of the story. For just as pervasive, though far less strident, are the many who go out of their way to help refugees and migrants, who still seek to remain citizens of the world and for whom human values prevail over all others.

In this year’s conference we hope to hear both sides of the story—not only the concerns of those who want to build walls but also those who seek to build bridges. Among the topics our speakers will discuss this year are Europe’s response to the ongoing refugee crisis, the role of globalization in the creation of migration and its criminalization, migration as both a threat to national culture and a boon to economic development, and health management in immigrant and refugee populations. These experts come to us from countries that include Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Slovenia, Cameroon, Fiji, the Dominican Republic and Antigua/Barbuda, as well as the United States and the European Union itself.

Through the information provided at this conference, we hope to introduce UNK faculty, students, and the broader Kearney community and beyond to the critical issues relating to migration, boundaries, and identity. It is our hope that members of the audience will be sufficiently inspired by what they hear at the conference to maintain a lifelong interest in international affairs.